I have the inestimable joy of serving on the Association for Church Renewal (ACR). This group existed for many years as an ad hoc committee of various renewal voices in the mainline denominations. The reason these men and women met over the past twenty-plus years was primairly for encouragement. (Encouragement is a real need when you seek to be faithful and prophetic in this culture.) When I began to work closely with mainline churches and institutions in the late 1990s I was invited to be part of this group by the leader, Dr. James Heidinger, IV. Jim leads the marvelous Methodist work for renewal and reformation called Good News. He is a refreshingly gracious and kind man who loves the whole church but has a real passion for revival in his own church, the United Methodist Church.
The reason I was in Washington, D.C., this week was to attend the semi-annual gathering of the ACR. This particular meeting could have been historic as we began a process that may lead us to make ACR more institutionally formal and visible. We believe, after discussion and prayer, that God would likely have us use ACR to serve wider needs in the church in North America. (ACR includes the US and Canada.) We will be able to decide more clearly what all of this means by our March 2007 meeting.
The Association for Church Renewal exists to be "an association of executives and leaders of more than 30 church renewal organizations and ministries that are related to mainline denominations in the United States and Canada." Its founding purpose statement says that it is "An association to encourage and support renewal and reform leaders from the ‘mainline’ denominations, assisting them in developing their ministries’ witness to orthodox Christianity in both church and society." To fulfill that purpose the ACR will seek to do the following:
*Focus on common concerns and issues, including orthodox faith, holy living, moral relativism, marriage and family, human sexuality, neo-pagan worship, God-language, the free exercise of religion at home and abroad, the sanctity of life, and world mission and evangelism.
*Issue position papers and statements as consensus develops.
*Assist renewal groups in developing a common life of prayer, building networks, and in sharing strategies and resources.
*Promote orthodox leadership in the "mainline" denominatons.
*Seek to envision and model a genuine ecumenism for the church in the 21st century.
Please pray for the ACR. It appears that the time has come for it to take a much larger role in helping these goals come to fruition in both churches and culture in North America. I prayed and worked for something like this to come about in the mid-to-late 1990s. What I hoped for did not come to pass as sectarian concerns trumped genuine ecumenism and "mere Christianity." This may be the moment that many of those prayers will be answered in a fresh and powerful way. Lord, may it be so and may it please you!